“I have tried to be perfect a long time,” she says, squeezing the mayonnaise bottle like it might cure hand cramp. “Have read every self-help book on how not to make a bad choice. But each year I cling to that crucifix plastic bead, verse on über thin paper, and wonder if untying a heart’s impossible if it’s essentially barbed wire.”
When the phone was enough, I took your calls at the office, on the bus, when I climbed the stairs a la Year 4 gym sessions trying to rigging rope climb, closer than Ally, faster than John, who I had a crush on the month before I left, before I knew what crushes were, what love is. I wanted to talk to him more than another person, about nothing, and I was 11. And this meant something, so Charlotte dated him.
I wasn’t astute at first, knowing when a person liked me. And I don’t know when you did, from, until, or I, you, but I log the little increments like it’s important: the first day at the edge of the Travel Section or the moment you said who you lived with.
When phones were enough, we had each other’s numbers and said, “Phone whenever you want to,” like we were family, eventually, at the craziest time to try that. But that’s what it felt like, feels like, and although my school, that first school, where we faced front for the bloodied crucifix, morning and afternoon prayer, said, “Change how you feel so you’re better,” I don’t think that’s a thing, is it? And really, like, listen when your feelings say something, or what’s the fucking point?
A few years back I found John on Facebook, but that was a pointless add, a “Remember me?” 3 message breakdown. But of course you don’t, he doesn’t. I’m mousey. Which has advantages. I eke myself out of it, trying to find that buried layer of what I am, like a pudding penny breaking teeth on its way out; not a prize at all.
I read books until my 18th birthday. After that, the “have to”-ness, made the process attractive as anchovy pizza.
There are opinions. Trustable ones, solid like second hand furniture checked for furrowing woodworm. And the ideal is ingrained like Corinthians and the Fresh Prince theme or the yellow M. Mouthwatering down to each tooth root.
I undercut myself completely from 12 and the damage is not reversible. But ours is, which is a fuck-up luck advent calendar second life shot jumble. Rare as Impossible Princess.
No matter what happens, there’s no banter like it. And that’s a compartmentalised important sort of novel detail that mattered pre-diagnosis, before any off-switch, was theatre director fact. She said, “Is he coming? Can he see it? Will it be a bit fucking weird?”
And I can’t change all opinions, of the part I family play to each of my well-worn peoples. But updating operating systems is time-wise lengthy, and maybe we won’t blame others for changing our minds on this one, for how were they to know? How were we?
Church learnt me love is a choice. Except that it’s not, or I’m doing it wrong. I read a set of self-help books when I worked in a book shop and handed them out to friends in interim years, and coveted lives when they went against advice I lived by.
In the end, I went to church to meet men, and it’s truly a terrible place for that. Unless you’re into repression, and I was when my twenties were preparation for baby bodies and a promising career and husbands entertaining like Clooney. He’s only fun because he trades his girlfriends on eBay for new ones, on Gumtree, locally. I don’t do that because women aren’t choosers, in church, anyway, and no man ever picked me, because I didn’t read the Bible in a year. Started, my boyfriend wanted twice-day sit-ins of verses on Noah and Abel, wouldn’t fuck me; it was motivation-less study, sorry.
I Googled that label: “Emotional.” With a second word after. But I never believed or knew this was an actual thing, to be savoured or sucked like mouth Rolos (incidentally bought for myself). The line, for me, was a clarity head definition: to kiss is wrong, but chat’s just normalcy. There are men in the supermarket I’ve touched more, in the spice aisle, reaching for a low leaning Paprika glaze.
The future’s fucked. And not only environmentally. I’ve been looking for a Bible bus replacement service since 2006 when all my friends were like, “If you date non-Christians you’ll do accidental oral and Jesus won’t speak anymore and you’ll think that it’s good but it’s not because who marries sluts over virtue?”